That there is wide-spread political dissatisfaction with Brussel’s plans to make the CETA agreement with Canada binding for the EU is nothing very new.
New (for Finland) may be the idea that local and/or regional governments can, in protest, declare their areas to be “TTIP-and-CETA-free zones”. By November 2016 more than 2100 such governments in mainly Southern Europe had done so. Details can be googled under www.ttip-free-zones.eu . Recently I joined a group which tries to introduce the idea also to Finland (the initiative came from Attac).
Why should anybody go to such trouble and what could one tell people to get them to join? A look at the mental situation of the negotiators who were producing CETA may help: A clear majority of the negotiators on both sides will be well-meaning persons (which they also know) – most probably there will also be a minority among the negotiators who hope that they will be richly rewarded by Big Money if the outcome should please Big Money, but they will not say this openly, and most of them will have anyway managed to convince themselves that their ideas are good, useful and reasonable (we remember Claude Juncker, who made it his job to help enterprises to pay as little in taxes as possible). Thus, the negotiations will have gone on in a general atmosphere of mutual good will and cooperativeness, while the possibilities of resulting dangers and misuse were felt as far away and easy to handle (I have witnessed a public appearance of Cecilia Malmström, had also occasion to ask her two questions, and I can only describe her as eager, well-willing and naïve – I wrote about it in this blog). Meanwhile there exists a term about this condition: the negotiators’ opinions were made “in a bubble”. We, who are outside this bubble, will of course be aware of the tendencies which Big Enterprise has shown already in the past: Chevron which left a heavily polluted area in Ecuador and employed armies of lawyers to avoid paying for the damage; Big Tobacco suing Australia and Uruguay for huge amounts of “lost profits” because the governments of those countries had begun printing health-warnings on cigarette packages; the professor of Helsinki University who gave in court his expert opinion that the causal connection between smoking and lung cancer were scientifically unproven (he failed to mention the considerable payment which he had received for this expert opinion from the tobacco firm in his tax declaration).
Even if the CETA negotiators were aware of the dangers, they might still feel that they really SHOULD finally arrive at some trade agreement. Because, presumably not having read even Ha-Joon Chang’s “23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism” (to which I am going to refer in the following), they may still live in the belief that (a) governments/politicians are not able to earn the taxes which governments need to get in order to pay for their legal obligations, so that they have inevitably to rely on Free Enterprise (which is wrong! – Chang’s “Thing 12”), may also still believe that (b) Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down theory” were valid (wrong! – “Thing 13”), and (c) quite in general believe that Big Money will keep the economy in good shape (which may, to a degree, be true of, e.g., family entreprises – who tend to plan for the LONG run -, but is NOT any more true of the REAL big money of the Anglo-Saxon world: there, the aim is FAST money, which can then be taken out and be invested elsewhere for more FAST money, while it is left to governments and society to clean up after the money has moved on – cf. “Thing 22”). Further, Big Money, which is anyway in the habit of employing large numbers of lawyers, may well get the idea that the suing of governments for money may AS SUCH be a good way of making still more money – and in this context any legal text or agreement (like CETA) will just be an object to be checked for possibilities to make money, quite irrespective of the purpose for which the text was meant initially (after the financial crash of 2008, when British banks had lost huge amounts of money via their dealings with some eapecially “creative” Icelandic banks, the British government was suing the Icelandic government for compensation under a law which had initially been created to deal with terrorism).
And now we have the situation with a CETA agreement on paper and negotiators who quite probably STILL believe in the ideas which they have conceived in their “bubble” and who will, thus, simply not feel like just giving up on the result of years of (subjectively) honest effort. What can we tell them (beyond the formulation which the Beatles were in their time ascribing to Mother Mary as “… words of wisdom: Let it be!”)? One has to say that the central mistake in the text is the possibility of entreprises to sue governments for money (especially for money they have not even spent yet but just planned to earn in some future), which will make governments (who tend to be chronically short of money anyway) very reluctant to do anything which even MIGHT displease some larger enterprise – this way giving enterprises the chance to earn by something like extortion, which they will sooner or later also learn to use. Thus: (a) even the best-meant text will by hordes of lawyers be checked for possibilities to misuse it (in which it will be TOTALLY irrelevant how the text was MEANT), from which one should better conclude that ONE SHOULD SIMPLY NOT DO THIS (no disrespect to the negotiators, who have honestly tried, but the outcome is not acceptable – and a good salary they have got anyway for their efforts).
And to the people whom one wants to become active about establishing TTIP-and-CETA-free zones one can say things like “Don’t trust bankers/ especially from Luxemburg/ they tend to like/ BIG money.” Or “One should not make mistakes/ just for being nice to one’s negotiators/ (however much trouble they may have taken).” People with some poetic talent may find still better formulations than these my attempts (especially as one will need formulations IN FINNISH), but I think I have made my point now so far that I can hope that others may feel like taking it further.